Many operators, frustrated with a raft of new laws introduced for the running of vans above 3.5-tonnes, have turned to the smaller van, which can be driven on a car licence.
This trend looks set to continue throughout the year with bosses at manufacturer Iveco predicting ‘van sales will continue to be strong, especially at 3.5-tonnes’.
The company said that for operators of larger vans, 2006 was a year of confusion and little clarity.
Operators were forced to contend with the introduction of digital tachographs and the issuing of drivers’ cards to monitor the amount of time they spend behind the wheel.
Speaking at the annual Iveco state-of-the-nation address, Chris Thorneycroft-Smith, managing director, said the changes had proved beneficial to the 3.5-tonne van market.
He said: ‘This is where much of the growth has been in recent years. Since the change in driver licensing and the advent of contract hire, the 3.5-tonne van has taken an increasing proportion of the market, some of it from 7.5-tonners because it has the huge advantage of being the best thing on wheels on a car licence.’
Although last year’s 3.5-tonne van sales of 74,381 units was slightly lower than 2004’s record for the sector, at 77,670 units, Thorneycroft-Smith said sales in the sector for 2007 were unlikely to go any lower.
He added: ‘3.5-tonners are bought widely by the big fleets and contract hire companies – 70% go to fleets with 25 vans or more and, of that, 80% are done by contract hire or leasing companies.’
On the future, Thorneycroft-Smith said it was vital the industry was more proactive towards forthcoming issues such as the introduction of road pricing and low emission zones.
‘We have to embrace them, plan for them and provision for them, even if it costs us to do so. Why? Because they have to be the way forward,’ he said.